Monday, March 11, 2013

My Weekend With Peggy

Ruth wrote: Yes, you might be blaming me now (!) but for a sloping shoulder, you cut out the entire armscye and slide it downwards, not just the shoulder seam, as that will produce the problems you have just encountered - a too-tight armscye also will not fit the sleeve head btw. I have to say on the narrow back thing, it depends on the pattern company. I find Vogue shoulders HUGE, and Burda about right, but the shoulder slope is pretty standard.

One of the great things I love about the on-line sewing community is the in-put. Our bodies are all unique and - as sewists - we've all had different experiences and been exposed to varying resources and yet we have commonalities that allow us to help each other. That's pretty fabulous.

I was not at all upset that Ruth's earlier comment set me to exploring sloping shoulders and I'm equally appreciative of Debbie's input into how to make that adjustment. Part of the reason, I've been taking a break from blouses is because I really, really, really want a simple answer to the issue of excess fabric behind the sleeve. Actually, I want a simple answer to all of my fitting issues. My goal is to enjoy sewing, and especially to enjoy creative sewing, and not to make endless muslins with seemingly limitless pattern adjustments. I just don't think I'm that "deformed" if you know what I mean. I have a pretty basic, bottom heavy, pear shaped figure. It shouldn't be that hard which means I'm over-complicating things... and that doesn't surprise me... and it's why I spent my weekend with Peggy - Sager - of Silhouette Patterns.

Not in real life. I wish. In webcasts. I watched her webcasts about pant fitting months ago and she came across as extremely confident and capable which is the same impression I received from her when I stopped by the booth at Sew Expo in Puyallup plus she was wearing pants she'd sewn and they fit FABULOUSLY. The thing is...

... Peggy's methods differ greatly from what many of the other sewing experts are telling us. They seem much more doable and far less labour intensive and - to be completely honest - that's exactly what I'm looking for. I want an easier method both for myself so I'm spending less time on fit and more on creativity and for my daughter so she realizes that sewing is fun and not nearly as complex as Mom makes it seem. Every once in a while she talks about sewing fashions and I'm very hopeful that at some point she'll start. From the few garments she did sew years ago, she seemed to have a natural aptitude for it so I know she'll be amazing when and if.

At Sew Expo, my friend bought the #195 Sweater Set. Last week, she sewed the t-shirt with the French dart and LOVES it.  Since she's new to fashion sewing that's a great testimonial BUT... I have a huge collection of mostly Vogue patterns so what I want to know is how to transfer the way in which Peggy sews to these other patterns. I've heard numerous comments about how the BMV patterns are wider in the shoulders and the shoulders seem to be my issue. I want a simple solution.

One of Peggy's goals is to teach us to think and to not expect to be told all the answers but to be able to figure them out for ourselves. Yes! I totally agree with that. She talks about analyzing fit from the perspective of length, circumference, and depth in the webcast Fitting Yourself, By Yourself. Length is vertical as in the distance from the shoulders to the bust, the bust to the waist, and the waist to the hips or crotch. Circumference is horizontal as in is there enough fabric to go around you. And depth is three dimensional as in all the darts and seams that create the way the garment flows around your body. The goal is to match these to your body. It's highly individual with no right or wrong answer. Our body is our body. When you think about it that way, it suddenly seems a lot easier. The webcast - of course - is not the entire story so I've ordered the DVD because I'm determined to do better in this area. Two things tickle at my brain.

One is that my friend Lorraine, who is a couture seamstress, does not go through all these pattern altering gyrations every time she sews a garment for a customer. She measures, makes a few modifications, cuts, fits, and adjusts as she sews. That's closer to Peggy's method. It's interesting that both of them have a background in the garment industry and both of them use methods that are based more on draping. It makes me want to know more about draping.

Two, I don't believe all these theories existed years ago when clothing was custom sewn for each person. Back then, the pattern was cut based on individual measurements and the garment was fitted as it was sewn. Again, more like draping. I'm guessing - and Lorraine might know - that there were some basic templates but possibly not. Templates would have overtones of Lynda Maynard's method from DeMystifying Fit and I think that's a HUGE part of my answer, an answer I already found years ago and then abandoned for reasons I'll talk about in Wednesday's post.

Peggy approaches what size to sew from a radically different perspective as well. To give an example with knit t-shirts, she has you wrap the fabric around your body, pin it to the amount of ease you prefer, mark where the fabric meets, measure the distance between the marks, and chose the size that corresponds to that measurement. The size differs depending on the fabric and on the ease preferred. I tried this method with one of Katherine Tilton's patterns and ended up sewing a size 8 and I love the way that top fits. With a woven, the advice is similar. Measure a blouse you already own and enjoy wearing and then choose the pattern size based on that measurement. She gives some general guidelines for if you don't already own a blouse you enjoy wearing which many of us don't.

I already trace my patterns so the only change with this method is having patterns with a wider range of sizes. If you own Burda or New Look patterns, they come that way. I - thankfully - have a few of those. Or, if you're like me and your upper and lower body measurements range over sizes, you may already have a history of purchasing two patterns. I'm thankful for the BMV sales that allow me to buy two patterns for way less than one would normally cost.

Right now, I'm making a Vogue 8837 - Katherine Tilton's - skirt using a purple, black, and grey zebra print that didn't look good next to my face but should look fabulous in a skirt. I hope. It's my wearable muslin as I have another far more expensive fabric I'd like to use next.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - free webcasts, knowledge sharing


  1. I think, in the end, it all comes down to draping - which is very hard to accomplish without a fitting friend or a dress form in your exact proportions (at any given moment). And I've not heard of Katherine Tilton (though her stuff seems a bit like Marcy Tilton). Are they sisters, I wonder...

    1. Draping is hard but not impossible to accomplish on your own. It just takes more time and more taking the garment on and off. At least that's the perspective I choose to take because otherwise I'd be one of those people - and I've met them - who thinks they can only sew for other people. I know someone who was actually taught that in her highschool somewhere in Europe ! ! ! I can't remember what country she immigrated from.

      Katherine is Marcy's sister. They live, work, and have studios at the Art Barn in Oregon. Katherine's patterns started appearing in Vogue three or four years ago (guessing) and now they are in Butterick. The two have similar styles but not identical because their body types and preferences differ. A quick example would be that Katherine seems to give more waist shaping than Marcy does. I think it must be fabulous to have a close friend and sister to share the artistic journey with. They're both very nice, very creative ladies, and real and you know how much I appreciate that.

  2. And the huge shoulders thing is why Vogue has always worked for me.... ;)

    I'll be interested to hear about your further adventures in fitting!

    1. It's so fun the way the thing that doesn't work for one person is perfect for another. Teaches us (me at least) to be more open minded and less critical.

      I sent Peggy a question about how do I know if it's this adjustment or that one and she sent back an answer. I'll put it in Wednesday's posting. Tomorrow's is already written.

  3. I've learned so much from Peggy. I have followed her for many years since she is local and love her style--both teaching and fashion. I definitely is possible to fit yourself by yourself; it just takes longer and a bit more patience IMO. My mom always fit as she sewed; she was draping but I didn't realize it at the time. She was self taught and "impossible" was not in her vocabulary. ;) I learned alot from her too.

    1. I'm certainly looking at Peggy's classes. I think that would be fun and great learning. And I definitely want to know more about draping. I have some resources to check and my friend Lorraine said that she'd be interested in fitting me to a muslin. YEAH!

  4. Learning how to fit yourself is definitely a process - it just takes time, partly to find out what method is best for you to use to learn :) Comparing 'new' patterns to nicely fitting patterns/clothing is always helpful. I like to compare the widths/lengths as well as the shapes (rounder vs. straighter armscyes or crotch, etc.)

    i can't even remember why or how but i've learned most about fitting myself via draping. And i've always done it on myself in a mirror - no dressform or fit friend. For me it's easier to see how the alteration you're making to the pattern shapes relates to the difference in fit when you're doing it on the body - i can see why the 'standard flat alterations' were developed, but they're so abstract! Also when draping you don't have to guess at how much to alter - just add or pin out until you get the fit you want. easy peasy!

    For me personally, in how i like to dress and sew, a lot of fit is choosing garments that will work easily with how i'm shaped. i'm an hourglass with wide shoulders. Baby doll dresses with empire waists could, i'm certain, be made to fit me properly somehow...but it would just be working against my natural shape. It's interesting the discussion of the Tilton sisters....i love Marcy's design sense, fabric choices (w00t!), embellishment techniques....but when it comes to choosing a pattern so much of the time Katherine's are just so much easier to fit on my body. Like you say, Myrna, they have a waist and more room in the shoulders. Many of Marcy's designs tend toward a empire or rectangle torso shape and my bod just busts out in all the wrong places! At any rate, for me, when i started to let those type of patterns go and concentrate on ones that echoed my own shape, fitting became much easier.

    oh, and - i've sewn with a lot of Vogue patterns. I make different alterations to all of them, you just have to go piece by piece. in my experience. Looking forward to your upcoming posts!!! steph

    1. Comparing new patterns to nicely fitted patterns is basically the method that Lynda Maynard teaches in DeMystifying Fit when she has you create a moulage and then use that moulage to adjust patterns. FABULOUS book.

      Peggy is saying basically the same thing when she says know your shoulder angle, know the depth of your armhole, and so on and then copy those from pattern to pattern. She's talking about customization and a template/formula of some kind. Once you know that, it's an easier answer.

      I used Lynda's method for quite a while and then I upgraded my computer and my pattern software didn't work anymore and I got away from it because I thought I knew what the adjustments were but then I started re-inventing the wheel. That's crazy. I need to head back in that direction. It was so easy and I think combined with what I'm learning from Peggy could be even easier.

      What worked about Lynda's method combined with the pattern software was that I could print out a "moulage" for each type of garment or amount of ease I wanted and then use it with any brand of pattern. I simply adjusted the pattern to match the moulage so how it was drafted was not all that relevant. I'm giving my head a shake. WHY did I stop doing that.

      What I like about Peggy's webcasts is the way in which she describes things that seem so obvious afterward. For instance, in the one I watched today, she said the armhole is the combination of A - the length from the shoulder to the underarm and B - the depth from the side of the body inward. That was an ah ha for me because a narrow back adjustment is simply a wider space from the underarm to where the sleeve curves up toward the shoulder and that's what I've been doing but I've been making it more complicated than choose the sleeve with the bicep that fits and copy that armhole but basically that's what all my adjusting accomplishes. THAT SAID... I haven't tested this to see if it actually removes what's driving me crazy but it does make sense that it could.

      OH - I so agree that choosing the right style of garments for our body type can make all the difference. I'm pear shaped. I need a waist. I need curves over the hips. I'm best with curves over the bust line. Princess seams are my friend. I just don't have the shoulders.

      Marcy's work is fabulous. It's so fun to see it in person and to be able to touch all the details and check them out up close. VERY inspiring. What I learned in the workshop last year is completely transferable and - IMHO - needs to be personalized. I do think you have to take into account your figure type. I won't be doing too many lower body embellishments but toward the face, they can really work in my favour.

      And then there's your fashion personality. I'm more a tone on tone with texture kind of girl than a whole bunch of different fabrics. I prefer my accessories to have the punch over my fabric. I used to think I was playing it safe but now I realize it's just me.

    2. hmm....your talking about your 'narrow back adjustment' possibly coming down to 1) narrowing the back and 2) adding what you took out the back to the underarm depth interested me because earlier i'd been wondering if you mite prefer a somewhat deep yoke across the back with pleats toward the edges so you get the wearing ease you need with a nice fit across as well.....which sounds like another way of getting around what you're trying to accomplish? Not that you'd necessarily prefer that method, just made me think maybe i was catching on!! ;)

      i'm also wondering if some of our trouble comes from looking at pattern backs too much. As in "bust - waist- hip" and you're in a size. I am in the habit of thinking of upper back width and underarm depth as two separate measurements. I know i need to have enough to accommodate BOTH of those areas each in their proper place. I can't take from one and add to the other - but we are so conditioned to thinking about 'our bust measurement' as one big number. Like i was reading a Threads article about sheath dresses and adding darts - they told you to decide how much you wanted to 'take out', then divide by four and add that amount to each dart, 2 front and 2 back. I wanted to scream! Who do you know who looks the same front and back? I have a nice big bust and, if you'll forgive the crudity, an 'anti-ass'. That dart method would just pooch out over my butt and pull away from my bust, why even bother!!! I was so frustrated with that article - What a missed teaching opportunity!!!

      Oh well, enough ranting for now - you've touched on some of my big pet peeves! And oh yessiree to fashion/style personality! I had to chuckle when you were talking about not feeling boxed in, having to see the possibilities as infinite - well, it's wheels within wheels! And people say thinking about clothes is for the bird brained:)

      "I used to think I was playing it safe but now I realize it's just me." Right on! I say, look at ANY lauded style icon and you will see that they stay within very strict guidelines in terms of silhouette, color, pattern, etc. In fact, that strictness is what defines their amazing style - you are on the track of the stars, Myrna! Thank you for letting me let off some steam, and have fun with Lorraine!!! steph

    3. Peggy described the armhole as a curved L. That just clicked. I have to come out from the underarm the correct distance and then go up the correct distance and I may need to account for the curve of my back in some way. With just those few thoughts - and the possibility of sloped shouders - and a sleeveless pattern - I have a place to begin. Get that right and then add sleeves. It's always nice to have a process to follow. I'm ready for another blouse. Skirt first.

      We are a combination of our parts and for most of us our parts don't match any prescribed combination so we need to mix and match until it works. Such an easy struggle.

      That Threads article makes no sense to me. The same is true with hips. Depending on where you carry your curves, a person needs more or less darts appropriately placed. I need them around the back. The great thing about princess seams is more places to adjust but not all adjustments are equal.

      Ah yes - wheels within wheels - I am so good at re-inventing the wheels. Tell me what you think of tomorrow's post - talk about a teaser - but I think it might be a way for me to stop spinning.

      Myrna among the stars has a much nicer ring to it than she's so damned picky. Thanks.

  5. "i can't even remember why or how" that i started draping! oops, steph

  6. Our sewing guild recently started a fit group using Peggy's fitting methods. One of our members attended a teaching class with Peggy to better learn her methods and I have a good grasp on them and how to translate them to the pattern. We started with #195-the sweater set. We had our first fitting session today and well... I can tell you that the alterations that were made to Peggy's patterns were the same that I make on ANY pattern. Sloping, forward shoulder and prominent shoulder blades which we alter as a round back. The good thing is that once you know what alterations are needed on her patterns (of the same fabric type) they can be applied to any of her other patterns, supposedly.

    As we were fitting I saw a number of the same alterations being done on a variety of sizes-lowered dart point, sloping shoulder, forward shoulder. I saw a few shoulders that I thought were too wide but since I'm not leading the group I didn't push it! What I didn't see is exactly the problem you have-excess fabric in the back armhole plus her sleeve sews in beautifully if you do it her way- Sleeve on bottom when sewing.

    After 4 hours of fitting and showing people how to transfer the alterations to the pattern I walked away brain dead. I was the last one fitted since I was helping and I felt like a dolt when she combined the sloping and forward shoulder into one alteration. I just couln't grasp how to move it to the pattern. I think because her forward shoulder is done absolutely, completely different than I've ever seen but it does work!

    1. What an interesting day that must have been playing with the patterns and methods. I'd have to say from watching the webcasts that I am most likely far more picky about fit than she is. There have been a few times when I didn't think the garment she was wearing fit that well. Two examples that come to mind are too wide of a shoulder and too tight of a bust and on both there was a dart forming in the armhole. A few times, the advice she gave wouldn't have worked for me because I want a finer degree of fit - like my bust point where it belongs and not in a 3" general radius - BUT... that said... the way she goes about making the alterations seems more common sense and a lot less complicated that what I've been making it. See the bit I wrote about the armhole in my reply to tinyjunco.

      All patterns lines are going to need alterations because no bodies match a pattern line exactly. Can't be done. I imagine that with every pattern I use I will always be making the same adjustments. What I'd like to know is that I am actually make the correct adjustments. It's easy when it's add hip width. It's more complicated when it has to do with areas like the armhole and crotch curve.

      Interesting that you didn't see the problem I'm having. I'd be intrigued to see if it turned up if I sewed one of her patterns especially as in the webcast I watched today she talked about how the back of her patterns is shaped for a curve and that most patterns are drafted for a flat back and so this bubble of fabric can develop that needs to be darted out from the back armhole to center back. If that was true for me, it would explain why some of the adjustments I've been trying have been sort of but not quite the answer.

      On a different video, Peggy showed a sloping, narrow, forward shoulder adjustment and she said to do them one at a time - first the slope, than the narrow, then adjust the position of the seam. Perhaps it would have been easier if you weren't so tired and if it had been explained in sequence. I think sequence is important.

      Glad to know the forward shoulder worked. When I watched the description of how the sleeve cap was adjusted I laughed because I'd figured out how to do that all on my own, slightly different but same result. I was relieved to know my brain does work in the correct direction.

    2. I'm quite picky on fit myself. I specifically wore one of my TNT knit tops today so that Barb could see how I liked them to fit. When I mentioned that everyone commented on how well it fit. What I really wanted to get fit was the sweater. The one thing I notice concerning the fit on Peggy is that she wears knits much tighter than I would and I think that's why she's getting the dart in the armhole.

      Re the dart placement- I heard the anywhere within 3" and questioned that myself which sent me on a search. What I found was within 2" for A and B cups and, yes, 3" for C cup and above. With the way her darts are sewn they "look" fine and not too short believe it or not!

      If you want to see if the round back alteration will take care of the fabric bubble you're getting you can easily pin out the back. 1/3-1/2 way down the back from the shoulder pin out a tuck, wider at the sleeve to nothing at the cb done on both sides. Your bubble and wrinkles will disappear. Your wrinkles look very much like what we were altering for with a round back. 1/2" tuck (total 1" tuck) seemed to be the magic number for everybody, me included. I don't care for her alteration method so I'll use the one I know and like. It's easier than hers as far as I'm concerned.

      I really did understand the alterations done on me (just not right at that moment,LOL) and had planned to do them in sequence rather than trying to combine them.

    3. Can you link me to how you do the rounded back? I'll look up the description of that in Fast Fit as well and see if it makes sense for me or not. It's amazing how many alterations do similar things but not quite. I think it's when we use the wrong alteration that we then end up using another and another so I'm going to pay attention to the question did this alteration solve the problem or create another one?

    4. Basically I do the same as would be in Fast Fit. When you're trying to figure out the amount it can be somewhat trial and error. That's one of the reassons I suggested trying to pin a wedge out from the armhole to cb on each side. It does the same thing as a rounded back in the opposite way.

      Let me explain. With a rounded back you don't have enough length to go over the middle of the back or reversly too much length on the side of the back.Draw an imaginary line from just past the middle of the shoulder straight down. From that point over to the armhole will be too much length, which results in drag lines, but it DOES NOT affect the sleeve, only the bodice. If you pin the dart/wedge from the armhole to cb you're removing the excess length so that it's even with the middle length on your body, if that is indeed the alteration you need.

      What the paper alteration does is add the length at the middle of the back so that it matches the length at the bodice sides and will remove the drag lines.

    5. That's the alteration I thought it would be. Thanks for describing it so well. I'm surprised to hear that it doesn't affect the sleeve. If the armhole is shorter, that's a change. Do you ease the excess sleeve cap in or... ?

    6. Reread the last paragraph above. When you do the paper alteration you're adding length at cb to match the (already) extra length on the sides.
      I googled for a link to the alteration and couldn't find a good one, believe it or not! Look at how Betzina does it in Fast Fit.
      When I suggested pinning a wedge from the upper armhole over to cb that was a way to see if a round back was the cause of the drag lines-NOT the way the alteration is done. It works as a test because you're "equaling" the back length from one armhole to the other if it is truly a round back issue. Note that you're doing a wider wedge from armhole to cb and the same on the other side.

      Is that a little more clear?

    7. Last sentence should say-note that you're doing a wedge -not wider wedge.

    8. The pinned out wedge made sense because that's how I saw it illustrated on a webcast. I'm pretty sure that's not my issue but I definitely want to keep it in mind as one of the options for the cause of the wrinkles. Thanks for explaining.

  7. I went to a Peggy Sagers seminar last month and learned a great deal. She asked why no one could understand the simple concepts she was trying to teach us. I finally said that I have been working unsuccessfully on fit for at least 20 years. It is not easy to un-learn all those bad habits that get drilled into you. I have been to fit seminars and argued with the instructors who insisted the pants we made fit correctly. But they still don't look good on me I said. But thats the way they are supposed to look claimed the instructor, you have to do it this way. So I have to force myself to forget all those things that don't work but have been drilled into me my sewing instructors.

    I found Peggy's patterns, especially the tops with the french darts and the cups sizes to fit very well. I hav epurchased more to use a base for other garments. I hope to take the details I like from other patterns and add them to the garments that I know fit well from Peggy. Good luck!

    1. So I guess it's a blessing that I didn't sew clothes for 25 years - LOL - I've less to forget. Like you, I've been to seminars where I didn't agree with the instructor and unfortunately that means we keep looking. To date, the best answers I've found for my level of fit pickiness are from Lynda Maynard's DeMystifying Fit. As I write that I'm kicking myself - again - see above - for detouring away from the method. You absolutely have to have a well fitted moulage but after that it's so much easier. I keep hoping she'll write another book with the technique applied to pants.

      Nice to hear Peggy's patterns fit well. I'll be intrigued to try one. I don't want a new collection as I already have a LOT of patterns so I want to learn what I need to know to make them ones that I have work but I certainly don't mind tracing the shoulder/armhole/sleeve from a pattern that works to one with more details - fine with me if it's a higher success ratio.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. After your post, Myrna, I went looking for one of Peggy's webcast in fitting that I missed before- the pants fitting one... She makes it seem so easy. I am going to give that method a try. It just might work for me too.

    Why get caught into details when the bigger concept might just work out better?

    1. There are two pant fitting webcasts. Hopefully you can watch both. I wasn't sure about the method because I've always scooped the crotch for my dropped derrier but she commented in another webcast about how the crotch curve is supposed to lift that problem. Hmm... sounds good to me... something else to explore later.

      Definitely - let's find the easiest way that works well. Best of luck.

    2. I'll add that we're doing the yoga pant in May. I'm going to completely step back from the fitting aspect at that meeting as I have my own fit methods that are qute different from Peggy's. For instance she INSISTS that you never scoop a crotch. EVER! Nor do you add or subtract from the crotch points.

      With my extremely low dropped behind if her method works and I end up with a pant pattern that doesn't cut me in half or pull down when I sit (without scooping or adding to the points) I'll shout her pant fitting methods from a rooftop. Until then, I'm still a little skeptical.

    3. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE shout my way with whatever you discover. I definitely want to know if - or if not - it worked. One thing about scooping, is that it's not a difficult alteration to make and it has certainly resolved issues for me. YEAH! May - so far away.

  9. Hey Myrna, we have the same issues. I'm a pear with shoulder issues and I made a couple of Peggy's tops, but the armscyes frustrated me so I watched that webcast live and asked a couple of questions. I took copious notes, but even after multiple adjustments I still had problems, so I set it aside a year ago. I also made her yoga pants, but they have weird wrinkles at the back crotch, so I found a Butterick (I think) legging that fits much better. Anyway, I just signed up for the draping class on Craftsy and my PGM dress form arrives tomorrow, so I'm terribly excited about that and we'll see if it helps with my fitting issues. Good luck to you, and I'll keep an eye out for shoulder solutions...

    1. ENJOY your draping class. What fun that will be. I think it's more important to identify and know the alterations for our body than what pattern line we sew because alterations are always going to be necessary. I have a wonderful collection of Vogue patterns I'm excited to sew and I'm also excited that by watching some of Peggy's webcasts I've figured out what I wanted to figure out. More in Wednesday's posting.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.